This is a super easy, foolproof shortcut method to make yogurt in your instant pot! This recipe for Instant pot cold start yogurt makes the most delicious, thick and creamy Indian style yogurt (dahi) with only 5 minutes of effort, no boiling or babysitting and results in perfect yogurt every single time!
What is Instant pot cold start yogurt?
Yogurt is traditionally made by first pasteurizing milk (boiling it thoroughly) and then allowing it to cool until it is lukewarm (100-110F). This process takes more than an hour. Yogurt starter is then added into the warm milk and it is allowed to ferment in a warm place for a few hours until it turns into yogurt.
With this recipe of cold start yogurt, we can skip the most time consuming step of boiling and cooling the milk and directly make yogurt with cold milk. Only 5 minutes of effort and you can have delicious, creamy, homemade yogurt ready! Isn't that incredible?
What type of milk can I use?
Milk is the most important ingredient when it comes to cold start yogurt. Since we are skipping the boiling (pasteurization) step entirely, we must use milk that is already pasteurized. The package will often say ultra-pasteurized or UHT (Ultra high temp) on it. Most shelf stable milks will also work in this recipe.
This is very important and you can't use regular pasteurized milk or raw milk in this recipe. Regular pasteurized/raw milk still has natural bacteria in it and this can compete with the yogurt starter bacteria during the fermentation process. If you would like to use regular milk in this recipe, you will have to first boil it (use the pasteurize setting on the instant pot) and then cool it until about 110F before following this recipe.
The second most important consideration when choosing milk for this recipe is the fat content in it. I prefer using full fat milk in this recipe as it results in a rich and creamy yogurt. Reduced fat milk has more water content and will result in a thinner and looser yogurt, but will still work in this recipe.
I personally prefer buying organic grass fed dairy products and I like to use organic grass fed milk to make my yogurt as well. I can't usually find organic grass fed yogurt in stores and I am really happy that I can make my own yogurt effortlessly, using this quick and easy instant pot method.
NOTE: If you would like your yogurt to be extra thick and creamy, then I recommend using ultra-filtered milk. A popular brand of ultra filtered milk in the US is Fairlife.
What is yogurt starter and what can I use in this recipe?
Yogurt starters are a live blend of bacteria that are used to convert milk into yogurt. You can either buy yogurt starter culture or just use store bought yogurt that has live bacterial cultures in it. If using store bought yogurt, read the ingredient list and make sure it says live and active cultures and/or the names of the cultures on it.
I really like the taste and texture of European style yogurt, it reminds of creamy and tangy Indian dahi, so that's what I use as my starter in this recipe.
How much yogurt starter do I need?
My recipe calls for ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) of yogurt starter per ½ gallon (~2 litres) of milk. I like using a half gallon container of milk at a time to make yogurt and this ratio works out perfectly.
How long do I need to ferment the yogurt?
It can take anywhere from 6-16 hours to ferment your yogurt. The time it takes depends on the weather, room temperature and strength of your yogurt starter. The longer the yogurt ferments the more tangy the taste becomes. I live in Seattle where it is chilly most of the year and I personally enjoy the flavor after 12 hours of fermentation.
What containers can I use to make yogurt?
You have a coupe of options when it comes to making yogurt in the instant pot.
- Make it directly in the instant pot insert. I don't prefer this option because I then have to wait for the yogurt to be completely chilled before transferring it to another container (which means I can't use my instant pot in the interim). I also don't like that the yogurt tends to stick to the sides of the container, making it hard to clean.
- Make it in a separate container placed inside the instant pot insert. The container can be made of any non reactive material like stainless steel or glass. This is my preferred method and I like using a designated glass container to make yogurt.
- Make it in multiple individual serving containers. This option is great if you're making multiple flavors of yogurt or just want to portion out the yogurt beforehand for an easy, grab and go breakfast/snack.
How can I sweeten/flavor this yogurt?
I like to make plain unflavored yogurt and then add in flavoring ingredients later, if needed. This gives me the option to use the yogurt in both savory and sweet recipes. But if you would like to flavor it before hand, you could add sweetened condensed milk, caramel, honey, agave, sugar or even ingredients like cocoa powder and vanilla extract.
Adding sweetened condensed milk results in a very creamy and lightly sweet yogurt, so I definitely recommend trying it out at least once! You could also ferment the sweetened yogurt in smaller individual jars if you like. This will make an excellent grab and go breakfast.
Refrigeration and storage instructions
After the yogurt is set, refrigerate it immediately for a minimum of 4 hours (ideally overnight). This helps thicken the yogurt further and makes it creamier. The yogurt will stay well in the refrigerator for up to a week.
How to keep making yogurt?
Always remember to save ¼ cup of your yogurt for the next batch. I like to transfer ¼ cup of it into a separate container as soon as it has set, so I don't forget! You can also freeze the yogurt in ice cube trays if you aren't going to make yogurt for a while. Thaw the yogurt starter when you are ready to make a new batch and follow this same process to keep making yogurt over and over again!
Some frequently asked questions
Can I use yogurt as the starter?
Yes! You can either use a store bought powdered starter or store bought yogurt (that has live cultures) to make your instant pot yogurt. I use store bought yogurt as my starter in this recipe.
Can I make yogurt with cold milk?
Yes, absolutely. As long as you make sure your milk is either ultra-pasteurized, UHT (Ultra high temp) or shelf stable, you can use cold milk in this recipe.
How long does cold start yogurt last?
This cold start yogurt can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Can I flavor the milk before making yogurt?
Yes! you can add a variety of flavorings like sweetened condensed milk, caramel, honey, agave, sugar or even ingredients like cocoa powder and vanilla extract before making yogurt.
What kind of container can I use to make yogurt?
You can either make the yogurt directly in the instant pot insert or make it in separate container(s) placed inside the instant pot insert. The container can be made of any non reactive material like stainless steel or glass.
More instant pot recipes to try!
Instant pot cold start yogurt
- ½ gallon whole milk (ultra-pasteurized, UHT, ultra filtered or shelf stable)
- ¼ cup yogurt with live active cultures or yogurt starter culture
- Make sure that the container you use to make your yogurt in is absolutely clean and dry.I like using a glass container to make my yogurt in, so I can store the yogurt container in the refrigerator and continue using my instant pot for other recipes. If you plan on making yogurt directly in the instant pot insert, skip this step and follow the instructions below (directly in the instant pot insert).
- Fill the instant pot insert with 2-3 cups of water.
- Add the cold ultra pasteurized milk into your container and mix in the yogurt.
- Set this container inside the instant pot insert and cover with the lid. I prefer setting the valve to the vent position.
- Select the yogurt option on your Instant pot and select the Ferment/Incubate option. Set the time to 8 hours on high (100-110F), then press Start. If your Instant pot doesn't have a yogurt option but has the sous vide option, select it and set the temperature to 110F and time to 8 hours, then press Start.The Instant pot will beep and start heating the water in the insert. When the water has reached the correct incubation temperature, it will start counting down.
- When the fermentation is complete, the instant pot will beep and turn off. Open the lid and check if the yogurt is set well (and jiggles slightly when shaken). If it hasn't set well, ferment for another 2- 8 hours. When it's done, remove your yogurt container, cover it with a lid and chill it in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours. Do not stir the yogurt until fully chilled.
- After chilling, stir the yogurt well and enjoy! It can be stored for up to a week in the refrigerator. Remember to save ¼ cup of yogurt to make your next batch!
- You have to use ultra-pasteurized / UHT / Ultra filtered / shelf stable milk in this recipe. Regular milk will not work in a cold start yogurt recipe.
- The higher the fat content in the milk, the thicker the yogurt will be. Lower fat milks have a higher water content and will produce a more watery yogurt. You will need to add powdered milk and/or strain the yogurt to make it thicker
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